Taking Care of Yourself in a Toxic Worksite

Toxic work environments are physically and mentally draining. They can impact your body, affect your sleep, and increase your anxiety. The consequences of a toxic job are immeasurable, particularly since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic when so many workers have been coping with isolation, fatigue, and heightened feelings of stress.

How do you deal with a toxic work environment?

How do you manage your mental health when in a toxic job? When is it time to quit your job for the sake of your mental health?

As someone who has been in a toxic work environment, I have asked myself these exact questions and learned from my experience. If you are in a toxic work environment, consider the following strategies to support you in managing your mental health.

Harness the power of self-care!

Toxic work environments can quickly lead to career apathy, disconnection from your work, or even complete job burnout. If your work is impacting your mental health, begin by reviewing your self-care regimen. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can I make my work environment less stressful?
  • How am I consciously ‘turning off’ at the end of each workday?
  • How am I intentionally practicing self-care throughout my work weeks?

These are just a couple of reflective questions to get you started as you review your self-care practices and rituals. Importantly, while you may have had a self-care routine that worked well before your toxic work environment, it will likely need adjusting as you cope with your toxic work environment. Look for new ways to protect yourself and your mental health from job-related stress.

Try to focus on what is within your control.

I regularly hear that the most challenging part of a toxic work environment is feeling out of control. As someone who has personally survived several toxic work environments, I can relate and I can empathize.

I advise focusing on what is within your control in your current situation. You can regain your sense of control by setting and clearly communicating your boundaries.

With this in mind, review which of your work boundaries are working well and which ones may need refining. Here are a few examples of boundaries you may wish to set at work to protect your mental health:

  • Only being available for work meetings within the 9 AM to 5 PM timeframe (or your assigned work schedule).
  • Leaving work email off of your personal phone and laptop.
  • Not accepting Facebook friend requests from colleagues or clients.

Additionally, reflect on how well you are communicating your boundaries at work. And keep in mind that communicating your boundaries takes practice and is a constant work in progress.

Give yourself patience and grace as you communicate your needs to those around you.

When in need, ask for help.

You do not have to deal with a toxic work environment alone. I encourage you to assess the people at work who may be able to support you in dealing with work stress. This may include your boss, an executive sponsor in another department, or your human resources department. The key is to find what works for you and your unique work situation.

Further, think about who you may turn to outside of your workplace for support. Sources of support may include a mentor, a career coach, a mental health therapist, and in some cases, an employment attorney. Again, you do not have to deal with a toxic work environment by yourself. Calling on others for support can be an extremely helpful coping mechanism.

Consider when it is time to quit your job…

Finally, ask yourself at what point you should leave your job for the sake of your mental health. While every situation is unique, the following are a few signs you may need to free yourself from your current job:

  • Your number of bad days outweighs your number of good days.
  • You cannot stop thinking negative thoughts about work in the evenings and on the weekends.
  • Your boss does not respect your boundaries or mental health needs.

Consider how much you are willing to put up with at your current job before quitting. Remember: Your mental health is a priority and you deserve a workplace where you are respected. You’ve got this!

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